Emory Report
September 6, 2005
Volume 58, Number 2


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September 6 , 2005
New creative writing professor to give poetry reading,
Sept. 8

BY Deb Hammacher

Award-winning poet and scholar Kevin Young, who joins the Emory faculty this fall as Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library in Woodruff Library, will mark his arrival on campus by giving a reading, Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. in the library’s Jones Room.

The event kicks off the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series, and it features a young poet whose book Jelly Roll: A Blues, was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Award. Before coming to Emory, Young was the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University.

“[The Danowski collection] is so big and has such great breadth and depth; it’s impressive,” Young said of the 75,000-piece library he’ll be curating. “It’s a terrific statement about the centrality of poetry to intellectual life at Emory.”

Young is someone whom the creative writing program faculty has been hoping to recruit for some time. “We’ve known about Kevin for a long time, since his days teaching at [the University of Georgia], so when we found out he might be open to a move, we approached him,” said Jim Grimsley, director of the creative writing program. “He is one of the most accomplished poets of his age; he’s really extraordinary.”

The English department has only one full-time poet, Natasha Trethewey, so Young also fills a great need on the faculty.

In addition to the poetry workshops that he will teach, Young hopes to offer the courses on long-form poetry and African American film that he has taught in the past, so his addition to the faculty also bolsters the University’s offerings in film studies and African American studies.

The role of curator of the Danowski collection is still being defined, but among his duties Young will organize further readings in the series he’ll inaugurate on Sept. 8. Emory was given the poetry library in 2004; at the time, it was the largest library of 20th century English language poetry in private hands.

“I’m excited to help promote the collection and represent it,” Young said. “This will be a way to look in depth at some of the authors represented there. I see this as a way to shape the role of poetry at the University.”

“In addition to being a rich resource for scholars, the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library is also a center for poets and readers everywhere,” said Steve Enniss, director of the Manuscript, Archive and Rare Books Library, where the Danowski collection resides. “As curator, Kevin brings considerable creative energy and excitement to that wide ambition.”

Young’s most recent poetry collection, Black Maria: Poems Produced and Directed by Kevin Young, was published in February (Alfred A. Knopf). He is the author of three previous collections of poetry and the editor of Library of America’s John Berryman: Selected Poems, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets anthology Blues Poems, featuring works from Langston Hughes to Gwendolyn Brooks, and Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers (HarperPerennial, 2000), which features poetry, fiction and nonfiction by the next wave of black writers. Aside from being finalist for the National Book Award, Jelly Roll also was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Paterson Poetry Prize.

Young’s first book, Most Way Home (William Morrow, 1995; Zoland Books, 2000), was selected for the National Poetry Series and won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. His second book of poems, To Repel Ghosts (Zoland Books, 2001), a “double album” based on the works of the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, was a finalist for the James McLaughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

Young’s poetry and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Paideuma, Callaloo, Fence, Verse and elsewhere, and have been featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition.”

A former Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University, Young was named by The Village Voice as a “Writer on the Verge” in 2001, and he received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2003–04.